If I made a list of people who you just really needed to know, Evelyn Cools would make the cut. She is releasing her debut EP this Friday, Calming Storm, on the Animal Farm label. This London-based, Belgium born singer/songwriter makes a lasting first impression on me. I am both inspired and envious of all that she has accomplished and I know her journey has really just begun. Buying her first guitar while studying at Ithaca, NY, this globetrotter started teaching herself how to play listening to all her influences such as Dylan, Angus and Julia Stone, Lana Del Ray, Fleetwood Mac and Simon and Garfunkel. From there she began playing in small cafes and bars in London. Calming Storm is a folky, dream pop EP with songs that are comprised of her life and experiences. Emotions are strong and precious as she sings of beauty, adventure, ambition, her role in this generation, connecting with the past and acknowledging the wonders of this world. Currently on tour in the UK, I got to catch up with Evelyn and this is what she had to say about her music…
-Describe your sound.
I would describe my sound as a blend between folk and dreamy pop. My main aim is to write songs with a strong melody and an emphasis on lyrics. It’s all about telling a story that people can relate to or that touches their heart in some way.
-Self taught on the guitar, what made you want to take on songwriting and singing? Have you always wanted to be a musician?
I actually taught myself to play guitar so I could accompany myself when I felt like singing other people’s songs. Although I didn’t always know I wanted to be a musician, I have always been involved with music in some way ever since I can remember. When I was a child I took piano lessons and played the flute for six years, as well as being in choirs and musicals throughout school. What really made me want to take on songwriting was when I started listening to artists like Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. When you read their lyrics out loud, they are pure poetry; and that was something I found magical and truly inspiring.
-What is it that you love about traveling and playing for all different kinds of audiences?
Coming from an expat family I have never known what it’s like not to think about the next destination. I have grown up traveling, leaving to a new country about every 4 years, and though it hasn’t always been easy leaving friends and homes behind, the experiences I have had are my most prized possessions. One of my favorite feelings in the world is being on the road and existing in a state of complete freedom, especially when you get to share that journey with someone you care about. My track Safety Blankets is actually about that exact feeling. When it comes to playing for different kinds of audiences, I have to say that I absolutely love performing for as many different types of people as possible. I just came back from a European tour to The Netherlands, Hungary, and Belgium, and will be back on the road next month. If there is one thing I have taken from playing in these varying environments it is that music is a universal language with the power to create the most heartwarming moments.
-As a constant traveler, do you think you will ever settle down and stay in one area?
At the moment I’m not thinking of settling in one area just yet. There are so many amazing places in the world I still want to explore, both as a traveler and as a musician. I am originally from Belgium, so I know I will always be drawn back there, but for now I am trying to live in the moment and have the best experience I possibly can in this crazy, creative city that is London.
-What is your process for writing a song?
The most important thing for me is that I have to be in the right mindset and it has to be the right moment. Often I will be thinking about a memory or an emotion for a while, give it a place in my mind, and when I feel like I can put that all into words I get my guitar and start writing. When it comes to finding inspiration I try to keep an open mind and may end up writing about a novel or someone else’s experiences, but mainly my songs are based on very personal stories of the people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen.
-New EP, Calming Storm, is being released soon, what makes you most excited about that?
Besides the fact that this is my debut EP, which is pretty exciting in itself, I am most excited about how the songs all fit together and showcase the musical styles and songwriting themes I want to explore as an artist. While Safety Blankets has some electronic elements, Don’t Turn On The Light is a guitar-heavy, country-inspired song, and all the tracks have quite an ‘epic’ feel to them in my mind. Thematically they address topics from family in Beauty Unseen, to relationships, being on the road, and fighting for a more beautiful and loving society in This Is The Day.
-Why the name Calming Storm?
There are a few reasons I chose Calming Storm as the name of the EP. Firstly, it is part of a lyric in the song Don’t Turn On The Light – “we’re in the middle of this calming storm.” The idea behind that lyric was to illustrate the fragility of certain things in life, like the moment before a storm when everything is quiet or the calm that exists in the eye of a tornado. A lot of my songs are also about or inspired by nature, so I thought it would be fitting to connect the name of the EP to an element of the natural world.
-Do you think you might write a full album in the future?
I would be thrilled to do that! I look forward to performing more music, gaining incredible life experiences, meeting more inspiring people, and hopefully receiving the opportunity to create a full album in the future.
-Where has been your favorite place that you have performed?
That’s a tough one. My favorite type of performances are the really intimate ones, like home concerts or gigs at tiny cafes where the audience is listening to every word you sing. These are great because I feel like I can be a storyteller, not just a singer. On a bit of a bigger scale, one gig that definitely stands out is one I did at the Rich Mix in London last February. It was the first time I performed with a band, which I really enjoyed, but it also marked a bit of a turning point personally for me as an artist. The venue and the audience were perfect for my style of music, and a lot of good things happened after that performance – such as meeting my producer for the new EP.
-If you could share the stage with any artist, who would it be?
Definitely Stevie Nicks. I will never get tired of listening to her voice and her magnificent lyrics. She would be such an amazing artist to see live, let alone share the stage with!
In her own words about he EP…
The idea behind my debut EP Calming Storm was to tell the story of a world traveller searching for adventure, love, and beauty that surrounds us every day. Based on my own experiences exploring the globe and meeting truly inspiring souls, I have found that the most powerful memories are made in the simplest moments. The opening track Beauty Unseen is an ode to a very special person in my life, the type of person that everyone has in their lives but maybe fail to acknowledge as much as they should. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t experienced all the wonders of the world, because the experience of a deep human connection is the greatest wonder of all. Next the tempo picks up for a country-inspired song called Don’t Turn On The Light, which describes the fragility of a relationship and how the slightest touch of a brewing storm could make it all crumble away. The third track Safety Blankets in turn is about being on a journey, miles away from home, and believing that anything is possible in that moment. To me there is something magical about being on a train, hearing the wheels beneath you on the tracks, and feeling the butterflies of both the uncertainty and the excitement that lies within the unknown. Closing the EP is This Is The Day, a song I wrote with the ambition of making it into an anthem for my generation. Coming from the connection I feel with the 1960s – its artists, its passion, and the free love movement – I wanted to paint a picture of the world we should be fighting for, one that believes we should not just tolerate each other, but rather thrives on the basic rights of love, respect, and acceptance. I hope this record touches every listener’s heart in some way, as these are all experiences that have deeply touched mine.-Evelyn Cools